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When Joel Chianese, the Perth Glory flanker, first played A-League for Sydney FC in the 2011-12 season, there was a buzz around Allianz Stadium that Head Coach, Viteslav Lavicka, had unknowingly chosen a player with similar qualities to that of a young Frank Farina.

Blessed with blistering pace and a good eye for goal, Chianese was considered the “Next Big Thing”.

However, this great promise was curtailed by injury which has been an unfortunate feature of his career.

Nevertheless, Chianese is approaching this year with a renewed sense of optimism and is determined to prove to newly appointed coach, Tony Popovic, that he should be a permanent fixture in the first eleven.

After signing a one year contract at the end of last season, Chianese wants to demonstrate he can  still play havoc with any defence and finally live up to the great reputation he commanded in his first season with Sydney FC.

Roger Sleeman

Can you outline the events surrounding your release from Sydney FC at the end of the 2013-14 season?

Joel Chianese

I’d come off contract and Frank Farina who coached me for two seasons, was also let go. The club claimed it wasn’t in a position to offer me a new contract.

Additionally, I had been injury prone during the season and didn’t fulfil the expectations of the previous year when I was scoring goals and played in the finals.

Sleman

What were your thoughts at the time?

Chianese

It was a strange feeling because I felt unwanted and doubted my ability to become a great player. Also, because I didn’t have a club to move to, uncertainty crept in as to whether I would continue to play at a high level.

I stopped playing for 4-5 weeks and with no A-League prospects imminent, Zeljko Kalac suggested I should play in the NPL and he assisted me to link up with Mark Rudan at Sydney United.

Mentally, I had to adjust to the semi-professional game but I enjoyed playing under Rudan for that 2014 NPL season.

Sleeman

What were the cicumstances surrounding your move to Malaysia in 2015?

Chianese

I’d moved to Bonnyrigg at the start of the 2015 season and after playing a few matches, my agent received a call from Mike Mulvey who was coaching Sabah in the Malaysian Second Division. Scott Ollerenshaw worked with my agent to furnish an offer from the club so I acted quickly because it was a good opportunity to play 90 minutes at a good level each week and allow me to bounce back. I finished the season scoring seven goals in 14 appearances.

Sleeman

In December, 2015 you received an offer to play with Negeri Sembilan, coached by Gary Phillips. Can you relate the experience and how did you rate Phillips as a coach?

Chianese

The club was an ambitious outfit and they employed Gary to lead their bid for promotion to the First Division. He also signed Andrew Nabbout, Taylor Regan and Alex Smith to boost the club’s stocks.

Gary was a positive coach to have around the training ground. This was critical  in Malaysia because you have to cater for the different ways of the local players and he was very good at controlling them. He also had high expectations of your performance and encouraged me in going forward with my pace and isolating opponents one on one.

I scored ten goals in 15 matches but was told after three months that my contract, along with Andrew Nabbout’s, had been terminated, even though there were six months remaining. The club told us they required more experienced players to clinch promotion and eventually we reluctantly agreed on a settlement.

Gary Phillips supported us but in the end the club was determined to bring in two new foreigners and we just had to accept the offer. I remember Andrew Nabbout was particularly upset but he was fortunate to be signed by the Newcastle Jets for the 2016-17 A-League season.

Sleeman

How did your subsequent move to Perth Glory take place?

Chianese

I had been to Glory after leaving Sabah and they liked what they saw but there was only one spot available due to the salary cap. An offer was made but I decided to go to Negri with Gary Phillips. Fortunately, after I returned to Australia, Glory put an offer on the table for the 2016-17 season which I accepted.

Sleeman

Your career has been marred by injury. Can you explain the reasons?

Chianese

I’ve always looked after myself physically but I discovered when I moved to Glory, my hamstrings and groins needed further development due to the strain from explosive runs and stop-start action.Also, when I left Sydney FC, I was going from club to club so I wasn’t getting full pre–season preparation. I really can’t pinpoint where I got the injuries so now I concentrate on hard work in the gym and can see the benefits accruing.

However, even after my best pre-season last year, I was tackled on my right side, fell on my shoulder and broke my collarbone. Despite the best preparation, these events can’t be prevented and the injury put me out for three months.

Sleeman

Can you comment on your Perth Glory move, and are you happy at the club?

Chianese

I didn’t know what to expect in my first season but it was satisfying to reach the play-offs, although we were knocked out. When I missed the first three months last season, I played two 90 minute games and it was an exciting and direct style. Neil Kilkenny and Dino Djulbic were a great inspiration for me but in the end we underperformed and conceded too many goals. Also, going forward we struggled to finish consistently, despite getting into good positions in front of goal.

Sleeman.

Does Diego Castro bring you into the play enough or do you feel he takes too many touches at times?

Chianese

I feel he does work with me but you always want more of the ball to use your pace to go beyond defenders. 

Personally, I believe Castro should operate in a more central role so he can feed the ball to the flanks and receive return balls closer to goal. Hopefully, Tony Popovic will look at this situation and will bring out the very best in Castro for the team as a whole.

Sleeman

What was your opinion of Kenny Lowe as a coach, and did he treat you fairly?

Chianese

Lowe gave me my chance but he was good for some players who became too comfortable. Hence, a culture emerged where complacency set in because certain players were guaranteed selection. Last season we conceded a couple of early goals in a few matches due to this complacency.

The post-match analysis needed improving as players weren’t advised directly how to correct their errors, unlike at Sydney FC under Farina. 

When I came back from injury, I was taken off in a few matches when I was making an impact which was disappointing. Speed and directness are my greatest strengths and when I was linking with Scott Neville, we caused great problems by drawing central defenders towards the flanks after we’d outpaced the full backs. 

Sleeman

You often appear to avoid physical confrontation when you could win the ball in tackles to your advantage. Can you explain this?

Chianese

I’m not a physical player but I’ve been doing a lot of work in the gym recently which will provide extra strength in my upper body so I can  hold off players more when I’m on the ball. It will also give me more confidence to put my body into areas where I can win the ball more regularly.

Sleeman

With the appointment of Tony Popovic as the head coach of Perth Glory, how do you see your future at the club?

Chianese

Tony Popovic will bring his ideas to the club which is exactly what is required in the way of a new culture and expectations. His teams are always fit and well prepared and, for me having a new coach, will give me the opportunity to prove myself by performing in training and pre-season matches.

There is a large change of personnel at the club with the loss of established players like Adam Taggart, Andreu Guerao, Xavi Torres and Joseph Mills. 

All-in-all Popovic will have to fill eight positions so at least I’m a retained player. I’m confident to back myself and set high goals for this coming season, barring injury. Although it’s only a one year contract, I will do everything in my power to be selected every week in Popovic’s first eleven.


This interview first appeared at the Johnny Warren Football Foundation


Categories: People | A-League | Football Life

a-league, perth glory, joel chianese

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